Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nachos Grande Post Round 0: Fonsi For President

The following is my first entry into Nacho Grande's Blog Post Contest. Go check it out!

I don't know what in the hell this card is.

That is a true statement. I don't know what this card is. I recently got back into collecting, and needless to say, I'm not familiar with cards that were produced between 1990 and 2012(ish). This looks like Topps (or whoever produced it) wanted to get in on the Pokemon craze of the early 2000's and this was their idea.

But let me tell what I think when I see this card.

I go back to 2004. I can still feel the heat from the mid-July Texas sun while sitting in the front row of the left field home run porch at the Ballpark in Arlington.

I was waiting.

Waiting for one man to send a gift my way. It was the summer of Alfonso Soriano.
Alfonso Soriano joined the Texas Rangers in the 2004 trade that sent baseball's highest paid player, shortstop Alex Rodriguez, to the New York Yankees. Rodriguez had made it known that he wanted out of Texas, and the Rangers' front office obliged.

When Soriano joined the team, many Rangers fans wondered if he could come close to the offensive production lost when Rodriguez left. We wondered where our young second baseman, Michael Young, would find himself playing when the season started.

Most of all we just wondered - "what the hell is going to happen?"

Young moved to shortstop, where he would win a Gold Glove in 2008. Soriano was now our send baseman. But could he hit?

The kid could rake. While it took nine games to get his first home run, the guy seemed to have a timely base hit every time we needed one. Whenever he stepped into the box and went into his highly-recognizable stance, you felt that you could see something special. You watched his every at-bat closely - you wanted to be part of the moment if something did happen.
The summer brought the end of my first year in South Dakota, where I was attending Mount Marty College. I stayed into June because I was working, but I had a two-week window that allowed me to come home.

And to see Soriano for myself.

I had been following all of the games, watching them on TV when I could and reading about them when I couldn't watch. I was as excited as anyone about Soriano, the Texas Ranger. So, I got home, convinced an old girlfriend to go to the game with me, and bought our tickets. I lucked out and was able to get seats on the front row of the left field home run porch. Knowing this, we made signs, mine proudly proclaiming "Fonsi For President." I quietly hoped to myself that Soriano would hit a home run in my direction and that I would be the one to catch it.

We got to the park early in hopes of getting an autographed ball, but as the Rangers sometimes do in the dog days of summer, they took batting practice inside. This left no time for autographs, so we made our way to our seats and hung our signs on the rail in front of us. Little did we know what we were about to experience.

The game went 18 innings. That's literally two games of baseball. During the course of the game, Soriano had three doubles but hadn't driven anyone in, and he didn't have a homerun. A member of the security staff had come down and made us take down our signs. We were bummed, and it looked like we were going witness a loss. Going into the 8th, the Rangers trailed 7-5, but managed to rally scoring one in the eighth and one in the ninth to tie it.

I'm not one to leave until the game is over, and I am thankful I stayed.

After nine more innings of scoreless baseball, Soriano stepped into the batter's box with one on and no one out to face Jamie Moyer. After a first pitch ball, Soriano crushed the 1-0 pitch over the fence for a walk-off, 9-7 win. At that point in the season we were leading the AL West, so this was a huge win. The only way it could have been better is if I would have caught the home run.
Soriano would do big things in the summer of '04. He was the leading vote-getter for the All Star Game, and he was also the All Star Game MVP. He excited Rangers fans and gave us hope. He was the opposite of the man he was traded for.

The haze of time has clouded some of my memory. In the excitement of the walk-off, I've forgotten which part of the park he hit it to. I've forgotten what I did immediately after the game. But I haven't forgotten my proclamation: Fonsi For President.

I would have voted for him, too.

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